SI Vault
William Leggett
October 02, 1967
Minnesota, Detroit, Boston and Chicago were within a game of each other as the pennant race entered its last week, but one had to meet St. Louis in the World Series. It might even happen next week
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October 02, 1967

The Cardinals Against—who?

Minnesota, Detroit, Boston and Chicago were within a game of each other as the pennant race entered its last week, but one had to meet St. Louis in the World Series. It might even happen next week

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Nelson Briles is a third Cardinal righthander who will start in the Series. Briles, 24, came out of the bullpen when Gibson was injured and did a superior job, though his 1966 record, mostly in relief, was a discouraging 4-15. He once played three parts in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, and he met his wife while he was playing Joe Hardy in Damn Yankees, but there is a grimness to Briles when he's on the mound. This season he became a practitioner of the no-windup style taught by Pitching Coach Billy Muffett and, even though he lost a couple of games because of wild pitches early in the year, he now seems to be Muffett's best student. "When you pitch with no windup," he says, "you have to be pretty strong to begin with. The secret is in the rotation of the hips, which gives you the momentum to be able to drive off the mound."

Of the Cardinal left-handers, Steve Carlton is the best, and some astute baseball men maintain that he eventually will become one of the finest in the game. The clothes that Carlton wears are a source of fascination to his teammates. When he enters hotel lobbies the Cardinals look up in wonder at whatever new hue he has found. Sometimes the color is plum or tangerine. "You fellows," he said once to Hughes and Relief Pitcher Ron Willis, "wear pants that frighten a connoisseur, and yet you fail to appreciate it when I put you in the company of excellent thread."

Ray Washburn, who had his thumb broken by a line drive in June, probably will be used in long relief for the Series along with Larry Jaster, the 23-year-old Zero Hero of 1966 who shut out the Dodgers five times. The short men will be Willis and Joe Hoerner; both are good.

With Dal Maxvill at shortstop and Julian Javier at second base, the Cardinal double-play combination is far superior to that of any of the American League contenders. Because of an injury sustained in the last week of the 1964 season, Javier is the only Cardinal regular who has not started in a Series. Roger Maris and Orlando Cepeda have each had a year free from controversy, and each is capable of turning a Series around with one swing of the bat. Flood is the one question mark in the outfield. His arm has been sore for the final half of the season, and most of the time he has had to throw the ball underhand. When games are close and Schoendienst needs an arm in center field, he puts Bob Tolan in to replace Flood.

A playoff for the American League pennant could seriously affect the outcome of the World Series. An extended delay between the end of the regular season and the start of the Series might well throw the Cardinal hitting off. Moreover, a playoff would jumble the American Leaguers' pitching staffs, and two clubs, Detroit and Boston, have enough pitching problems even when things are going at their best.

The White Sox, though desperate and scrambling in the pennant race, probably would give the Cardinals more trouble than the other clubs. Their pitching is deep and pliable, and Manager Eddie Stanky has handled it brilliantly all season long. He knows that left-handed pitching can sometimes minimize the Cardinal attack and, along with Righthander Joe Horlen, Stanky has two top left-handers in Gary Peters and Tommy John. He also has exceptionally strong relief pitching.

Stanky's problem in a World Series would be the same one he has faced up to all season long—a lack of hitting. The White Sox team batting average is .226, two points less than the "hitless wonder" White Sox of 1906. Contrary to common belief, the Sox, though fast, are not brilliantly fast, and they have to play a gambling game on the bases because of the shortage of hits. Even if Tim McCarver should throw out a few White Sox early in the game, it would make no difference to Stanky. He would still run. He needs his runners in scoring position when and if the hit ever comes.

Minnesota was the last one of the contenders to play in a World Series and gave a good account of itself. And now the Twins may be a stronger team. They have the superb rookie, Rod Carew, at second base, and in Dean Chance they have a fine starting pitcher capable of working three games. Unhappily, one of Chance's flaws as a pitcher is his motion. He pivots and turns his back to the batter, a time-consuming operation that is like opening a gate for such alert base stealers as Brock of the Cardinals. During one game this season the Kansas City Athletics stole seven bases off Chance. Of course, when his fast ball is moving, few runners get on to steal.

Twin fans remember the 1965 World Series with an if. "If only Tony had hit even a little bit...." Tony is Tony Oliva, a career .300 hitter who batted .192 during that Series. For the Twins to threaten the Cardinals, Oliva would have to produce. Harmon Killebrew is a good pressure player and much better at first base than at third, the position he played in 1965. And, aside from Chance, the Twins have three other good starters in Jim Kaat, Dave Boswell and Jim Merritt. But Minnesota is weak in the bullpen, and it is significant that only 30 National League pitchers were able to work complete games against the hard-hitting Cards through pennant-clinching day. Minnesota has a good outfield defense, but the erratic in-and-out play of Shortstop Zoilo Versalles makes this a bewildering club to analyze.

Boston's chances, like those of Detroit, center on hitting. Carl Yastrzemski could turn the Series into a wonderful thing for the Red Sox if he went on a tear, and powerful George Scott can hit consistently, too. The Red Sox have a good double-play combination in Rico Petrocelli and Mike Andrews. Andrews, a rookie, has been doing a lot of things this season to keep the Red Sox moving, both on offense and defense. The best Red Sox pitcher, Jim Lonborg, learned this year that he had to be "mean"—to brush back the hitters—and this helped him become a 21-game winner. Lee Stange has pitched grittily for the Sox, and Jos� Santiago has been astonishingly effective both starting and relieving. Gary Bell has been strong, too, and John Wyatt is an experienced reliever. But, after Lonborg, Boston's pitching is not really impressive. All year long, the Red Sox provided the fans of New England with miracle after miracle, but a lack of strong pitching, particularly in a World Series, is often fatal.

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